The Cryptic Killer

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Chapter 9

Jack was distracted during the return trip to the office. He was excited at the prospect of learning how Matthew cracked the CK letter cipher. The chance to finally read the letter, the contents of which up until now had been a mystery to him, yet was so critical in his investigation, was electrifying Jack.

Not being able to decipher the letter, or know its contents or message only added to Jack's torment of not being able to save the three unfortunate women.

Could this be an opportunity to delve into the psyche of this egotistical killer, who no doubt by now was sitting back watching the news crosses, while admiring his work? He was probably marveling at how Jack’s inability to solve his cipher had cost the life of another woman?

Always thinking several steps ahead, Jack realized the Cryptic Killer would assume the police had failed to decipher the 3rd letter, just like the first two letters. The 3rd and latest victim was the consequence of this failure.

When comparing all three letters Jack was able to ascertain that the killer appeared to have adopted the same cipher techniques in all three letters. Each letter included a literary quote, a number of cryptic crossword clues and a large string of numbers. Jack considered how this could potentially work to his advantage, should a 4th letter using the same cipher techniques be received.

The killer would be unaware that Matthew solved the cipher in the 3rd letter and his presumed arrogance and narcissism would reassure him he was too clever for the police. He would expect the trend to continue with the assumption the police would be unable solve any subsequent ciphers he sent.

The thought of it sounded somewhat perverted to him, but Jack started to welcome the prospect of a 4th letter from the Cryptic Killer, rather than worrying on a daily basis when a new letter was going to arrive.

He no longer worried about whether he would be responsible for adding more pictures to his whiteboard. He now felt like a giant predator lying in wait for its unsuspecting prey to amble by.

Matthew’s deciphering skills were essential to Jack’s investigation. Without him, Jack was back to where he was two months ago.

The irony of the situation was not lost on Jack. A little over two hours ago he seriously, probably desperately, looked at Matthew as the main suspect. Move forward a couple of hours and he was now their trump card in a very complex murder investigation.

For months he had been pre-occupied, if not obsessed with trying to match intelligence with a very clever and very elusive killer. And now he had a break. Now he had Matthew Curry.

As they pulled into the police station parking garage Jack looked across at Spence and grinned; a rare sight in a man so serious.

Sitting motionless for a short period of time during the car ride back had caused Spence to doze off. The effect of working well into his 3rd straight shift without a break took its toll.

The warm sun through the vehicle windows and the calming motion of the vehicle must’ve caused Spence to nod off. His head fell straight back onto the seat headrest. His face pointed upwards, and his mouth sagged open. It was not a flattering sight. His breathing was deep and controlled. Should I leave him here? Jack quickly remembering he needed Spence for this next bit with Matt, even if just to help explain it all to him.

After waking his partner, Jack and Spence headed straight for the interrogation viewing room. A uniform officer was present in the room and was responsible for monitoring Matthew.

‘How’s he been?’ Jack asked.

‘He’s been OK….He’s very patient…Just sits there,’ the cop said.

Jack looked in at Matthew. ‘Has he asked for anything…food…drink?’

‘No, nothing…but we took him in a Pepsi anyway and he seemed fine.’

Although Jack was waiting for Pete Unly to return from the verification inquiries with Matt’s mother, he was confident their stories would align. Jack was more than confident Matt’s mother would not only account for Matt’s whereabouts last night, but she would also verify that he solved the letter’s cipher and discussed it with her.

Procedurally, these are inquires that had to be conducted to definitively eliminate Matthew and to move on to the next stage of the investigation, complete in the knowledge that he had not been conned by a very clever and calculating deceitful mind.

Jack instructed Spence to source a laptop computer in preparation for Matt’s demonstration and they were good to go.


‘Matthew…’ Jack said cheerfully as he entered the interrogation room. ‘Sorry we kept you waiting so long, but we had an urgent matter we absolutely had to attend to. Just bad timing buddy.’

‘That’s OK.’

’I am dying to see how you cracked this code, Matt.’

Jack noticed Matt’s body language change. The kid re-adjusted himself in his chair and he sat up straighter. He removed a piece of paper from his shirt pocket and placed it onto the table. He opened the paper up and smoothed it out flat. He then reached into his coat, which hung over the back of his chair, and removed a novel and placed that onto the table to his right. He then looked at Jack. Jack was not sure who was more excited about the pending demonstration, him or Matt.

Spence entered the interrogation room carrying a laptop. ‘I assumed you would need a laptop for your demonstration, Matt,’ Jack said. Spence placed the laptop on the table in front of Matthew. The laptop was opened, booted up and already surfed to the Google search engine page.

Jack placed a copy of the last letter he received over two days ago on the table for Matt to use in his demonstration. ‘Ready when you are Matt,’ Jack said.

Spence brought in an additional chair and he and Jack moved to sit at the table opposite Matt. Their eyes were fixed on their tutor. Jack couldn’t remember the last time he was so interested in a demonstration.

Matthew proudly started by explaining the answer to each of the fifteen cryptic clues and how the answer fitted each clue. If he was being honest, Jack couldn’t care how the answer fitted, but he didn’t want to burst the kid’s bubble.

Matthew explained that when he placed all the answers into a sentence, or even jumbled them up, they failed to make an intelligible sentence. So it caused him to re-examine what relevance the answers had and how they fitted into the cipher.

He went on to explain that it was then that he noticed two small dots on only two of the clues; clue two and clue ten, assuming at first they were printing, or typographical errors. He turned the letter and used his pen to point out the dots to the Detectives, who both leaned forward and squinted to focus on the small dots.

Matt continued to mention that he then noticed a minus sign on clue nine. After further thought he realized it wasn’t the answers to the cryptic clues he needed, but the number of letters in each answer. These would form Latitude and longitude coordinates. Matt then wrote down the number of letters from each clue to show the Detectives how he worked out the co-ordinates.

“44.695648 -73.991193”

Jack and Spence sat in stunned silence. They were miles behind the excited Matthew as he continued with his demonstration.

‘So you were able to work out those coordinates from the answers to the cryptic clues…?’ Jack said.

Matt nodded. ‘That’s correct.’ Jack shook his head. He was suitably impressed.

Matt then brought up the Latitude and longitude finder website on the laptop and entered in the coordinates. He then turned the laptop screen towards the Detectives. The website showed a Google Maps satellite view of the Brooklyn Heights Library. Matt proudly grinned as he made eye contact with his students.

Even by this early stage of the demonstration Jack counted his lucky stars this kid came along. Based on what he had seen so far, it reassured him there was no way he would have been able to do what Matt had done; even just to work out the coordinates.

Jack and Spence exchanged sideways glances of amazement at how Matt’s mind worked. Not even their intelligence boys got this far.

‘Do you know the relevance of the Library coordinates?’ Spence asked.

‘I do now,’ Matt said. 'I couldn’t work out why he would give coordinates to a library. Was it where the body would be dumped…? No, that didn’t make sense. Then I remembered the quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.’

’Wait…How did you know that was a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle quote?’ Jack asked.

'I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan…I have every Sherlock Holmes novel he wrote and I recognized the quote was from the Valley of Fear.’

Jack’s eyes flicked to Spence. ‘Of course you did.’ Jack’s tone was riddled with sarcasm. Matt was too excited to notice.

Matt continued with his proud demonstration. He explained how he drew a nexus between the literary quote, the coordinates for a Library and the book that the literary quote was from - The Valley of Fear.

Matt deduced that the Killer was providing a clue to attend at the Brooklyn Heights Library and locate a copy of the The Valley of Fear — the book the quote came from — in readiness for the next phase of the code.

‘Did you go to the library last night?’ Spence asked.

'No I didn’t have to...I had a copy of the book in my room.'

All this concentrating was taxing on the sleep-deprived Detectives. Jack’s body demanded his overdue sleep. His eyes were narrow slits. Both Detectives sat with their heads firmly resting on a hand.

Matt continued with his demonstration. His speech started to quicken with excitement as he continued with his explanation.

‘I thought to myself, Library…Book…what type of code would be the most suitable in these circumstances…? Book Code.’ Matt said.

Matt deduced from his analysis thus far that the killer was providing clues to the police, directing them to the library to locate the Sherlock Holmes novel. And by using Book Code, Matt was able to decipher the answers from the number strings.

'Did you know there is a cipher code that is actually called “Book Code?” ’ Matt asked his captive audience.

Jack's weary eyes met Spence's. His mouth inverted and he shook his head. He realized this was way too involved for him to have ever come close to solving.

‘Book Code…?’ Jack repeated with a frown. 'So are you telling us there is a code called a book code,’ Jack said. ‘How do you kno-.’ Jack cut himself off. He waved the back of his hand at Matt. ‘Doesn’t matter…keep going,’ he said.

‘The next part is quite simple really,’ Matthew said. ‘Let’s look at the first row of numbers in the letter.’ Matt underlined the top row of numbers that were listed in his copy of the letter.

“0416040100051201061506009010501070406004150900608050”

If you look at the numbers it looks like a string of random numbers right…?

‘Right…?’ Jack said.

‘Wrong,’ Matt said. Jack raised an eyebrow to Spence. Spence grinned. ‘There’s nothing random about them at all,’ Matt continued. 'At first glance all the numbers look italicized, but on closer inspection, you will note that a number of zeros are not italicized.’

Matt underlined the first six numbers “041604”. He then pointed to the next zero, the seventh number in from the left, and indicated how it was not in italics.

‘This zero indicates a spacer number between the actual numbers that make up the word.’

‘How do you know this shit?’ Jack asked. His question was rhetorical.

Smiling proudly and without skipping a beat, Matt continued. ‘So this first group of numbers, “041604” is the first clue in the book code. OK. So this is how the book code works,’ Matt said to his captive audience, who despite their fatigued appearances, were actually intrigued by his demonstration and knowledge.

‘The first set of numbers – “04” ’, he said highlighting the numbers by circling them with his pen, 'is the clue to the page number. ‘The next set of numbers, “16”’, Matt circled this number so the Detectives knew exactly what he referred to, ‘is the clue to the line you need to go to on page 04, and the last set of numbers – “04”’, he said drawing his last circle, is the 4th word on line 04. Does that make sense…?’ His eyes lifted to Jack and Spence.

‘Sort of, yeah,’ Jack said, but in reality he was confused as hell.

‘OK. Why don’t I show you,’ Matt continued. ‘Let’s open the book.’ He lifted up The Valley of Fear from the table beside him and turned the cover to show the Detectives the title. ‘First we turn to page 04,’ he said. ‘Why page four…?’ he asked rhetorically. ‘Because that is the first set of numbers in the book code,’ he indicated to the first two numbers in the string with his pen.

Matt quickly flicked through the page four. ‘OK…Once at page four, count down sixteen lines.’ He pointed to the 3rd and 4th numbers in the number string. Counting out aloud Matt counted down to line sixteen. ‘Next clue,’ he said pointing to the 5th and 6th numbers in the string, ‘is to count four words in from the left, which is indicated by the “04” in the number string.’ Matt again indicated the “04” with his pen.

‘One - two…’ Matt commenced to count. 'Three - four…and there you have solved your first word in the cipher… "Lieutenant". Lieutenant is the 1st word in the sentence.’

Jack had never seen anything like this. Both Detectives simultaneously sat back in their chairs in an unintentional synchronized movement.

‘No wonder we couldn’t work this shit out,’ Jack said. Spence just shook his head.

‘This is really a basic code…’ Matt said. ‘Once I was able to identify the code, the rest was easy.’

‘Basic code…?’ Jack’s eyebrows arched. ‘Don’t sell yourself short Matt,’ Jack said. ‘No one else has been able to break it.’

Jack couldn’t work out who he was more impressed with at this time, the sick individual who created the cipher, or Matt for being able to break it.

'Does it make sense so far…?' Matt asked.

‘Yeah, sort of,’ Jack said.

‘Pretty much,’ Spence added, albeit unconvincing.

‘Seriously though, it is really a basic style of code, but what makes it tough is working out the type of book code used in the cipher.’ Matt decided to continue with his demonstration. 'OK…I’ll do another one for you. So after 041604 – the first six numbers in the string — is the zero separator.’ He pointed to the non-italicized zero with his pen tip then placed a vertical line through it. 'So, you disregard this zero number and look at the next series of numbers. In this case they are “1000512”… You know what the string is because the numbers are all italicized; the next zero separator isn’t.’ Matt pointed to the zero, which was the 15th number along the string, and drew a vertical line through it. ‘With me so far…?’ Matt lifted his eyes to his captivated audience.

Both men nodded once in response.

‘OK.’ Matt smiled as he continued. ‘Remember the page number is the first few numbers in the string…in this case the page is 100.’ He flicked through the pages searching for the correct page. ‘The line the clue is directing us to is line five.’ Matt counted down the five lines. ‘…and then twelve words in.’ He counted across the page. ’And voila…The next word in the code is “in”,’ Mathew declared proudly, as he sat back in his chair glancing at the amazed Detectives.

‘So you went through every one of these number strings like this, and you ended up with a sentence…a message?’ Jack asked.

‘Correct.’

‘Unbelievable.’ Jack shook his head. ‘Truly unbelievable. Can I try one?’ Jack asked.

‘Sure you do the next word.’

Jack studied the string of numbers looking for the zero separator. When he found it he underlined the numbers“1061506”. 'OK,’ he said thinking it through as he spoke. ‘Now, I go to page 106…’ Jack flicked through the pages of the book until he reached page 106. ‘Count down fifteen lines…’ he counted as he spoke. ‘And count in six words…four – five - six…’ he paused to examine the 6th word in the sentence. “Two,” he said. Jack’s arching eyebrows sought Matt’s confirmation. Matthew nodded his smiling confirmation. ‘So, the next word is “Two”,’ Jack announced. He was quietly pleased with his efforts. Jack glanced at Spence who just smiled and shook his head.

‘You got it,’ Matt said. ‘I won’t go through them all here and now, unless you want me to, but-’

Jack raised his hand to Matt. ‘No that won’t be necessary. We got it.’

Matt smiled at Jack. ‘OK,’ Matt said before continuing with his explanation. ‘So, using that method of code breaking, the sentence that I was able to decode was…’ he lifted his notes from the desk, then read, “Lieutenant in two days time you will find the body of another dead woman a lady of the night at 40.704301-73.989686 she will have been murdered neck broken lying under bushy trees. Now you know my secret Stop me if you can Good luck Gentlemen”

Jack’s eyes widened. He looked to Spence who shared a similar expression.

Matthew continued, ‘Oh, I forgot to mention that I noticed some of the numbers in the string were coordinates,’ he said. 'The dots and the minus sign in the 3rd and 4th row of the number string clearly had to be coordinates.’ He pointed them out in the letter with his pen.

‘Clearly,’ Jack said. He was of course, sarcastic.

Matt pulled the laptop closer to himself and typed the coordinates from the number string into the same website as before to demonstrate they were as he had adduced. The website brought up a satellite view of Brooklyn. The indicator marker was at the “Brooklyn Bridge Park – Main Street”. With a smile beaming across his face Matt turned the laptop to face the Detectives so they could see the screen.

‘Ah…’ Jack scratched at the stubble on his chin. ‘So that’s how you knew the body would be at that location.’ He nodded his understanding. It was all coming together for him. ‘You are one clever lad,’ Jack said.

Following the demonstration Jack and Spence escorted Matt to the Homicide Bull Pen where a detailed statement was compiled by one of Jack’s crew.

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